The AFRC offers a helping hand

Nelz Ruiz, supervisory team lead at the Airman and Family Readiness Center, smiles for a photo at Kadena Air Base, Japan, March 15, 2021. The mission of the AFRC is to provide targeted services to members and their families. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Anna Nolte)
Nelz Ruiz, supervisory team lead at the Airman and Family Readiness Center, smiles for a photo at Kadena Air Base, Japan, March 15, 2021. The mission of the AFRC is to provide targeted services to members and their families. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Anna Nolte)

The AFRC offers a helping hand

by Airman 1st Class Anna Nolte
18th Wing Public Affairs

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Armed with mini hand sanitizers, face masks and social distancing, the Airman and Family Readiness Center staff at Kadena Air Base continue to support U.S. service members and their families during the pandemic – leading 223 workshops, meeting with almost 6,000 individuals, and answering over 33,000 inquiries within the last year.

With services ranging from financial assistance to morale events, the AFRC is an information hub, explained Julia Hamm, receptionist and data entry specialist at the AFRC. Of all the duties her job entails, one of her favorite parts is being able help people who don’t know where to turn.

“A lot of military members come in here feeling lost. I know exactly what they mean because I've been in that situation, and it's frustrating,” she said.

Whether a customer decides to connect by phone, walking in, or through the AFRC Facebook page, the staff is ready with a wealth of knowledge and diverse expertise to assist them. Services cater to service members’ and their families needs from the moment they arrive to Kadena to their last day, and every need in-between.

When individuals first arrive, they can often find themselves in need of basic items. This is when they can count on the valuable resources of the AFRC, such as the Kadena Loan Locker, which lends essential household items, such as silverware, pots and pans and small appliances to service members and their families while they’re waiting for their household goods to arrive.

Whether they’ve been here for days or years, anyone working or living on Kadena, regardless of branch of service, have access to a multitude of programs such as Japanese language and culture classes, child care accommodations, career counseling and much more.

As military spouses constantly pack up their lives to move from duty station to duty station, employment programs designed to aid them in their career can be crucial to their success.

“Spouse employment is big,” said Nelz Ruiz, supervisory team lead at the AFRC. “When I was active duty, every move we took, my spouse sacrificed her career because she was following me.”

To assist spouses in finding employment and furthering their careers, the AFRC provides individual counseling during each step of the job search process, as well as the opportunity to apply to workshops in subjects like medical coding. Spouses have the chance to earn certificates during workshops which can distinguish them from the competition, making them more eligible for the job market.

Just as spouses have resources available to aid in the transition from one job to the next, programs are also available for those who find themselves at the end of their stay on Kadena and transitioning to their next duty station.

The Plan My Move workshop is a program which brings together subject matter experts from nine different areas, including finance, housing and the traffic management office, to make relocating easy and straightforward.

In the case of a service member who’s separating or retiring, the Transition Assistance Program helps makes the switch from military to civilian life as seamless as possible, helping with a multitude of tasks, varying from building a resume to understanding veteran benefits.

Ultimately, the mission of the AFRC is to support service members, their families and the community of Kadena by offering assistance in dealing with the diverse challenges that come with military life.

“The center’s main objective is to provide all the services that members and their families require to be resilient and ready,” Ruiz said. “Service excellence is our thing … We have to provide the best for the people who serve our country.”

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